Purpose Safety climate is a strong predictor of occupational near-misses, injuries, and line of duty deaths. Safety climate is the measurable aspect of organisational safety culture and is used by industries such as healthcare, construction, and manufacturing to gauge and improve safety performance. The FOCUS (The Fire Service Organisational Culture of Safety) survey was developed to assess baseline and longitudinal safety climate assessment, enabling intervention development and evaluation.
Methods An exploratory sequential mixed-methods design was employed. Ten focus groups and 63 interviews totaling 120 participants in 13 US fire departments were conducted. From coding of the resulting transcripts, 70 candidate safety climate items were field-tested in a geographically-stratified random sample of 130 fire departments with over 780 stations and 10 000 respondents. The results were psychometrically validated through structural equation modelling and factor analysis.
Results Through examination of focus group and interview language, survey items were made relevant for the fire service. The psychometric evaluation of the survey results yielded a two-factor solution. Differences in climate perception between leaders and followers were observed. The FOCUS instrument was predictive of safety outcomes such as injuries, as well as burnout, job satisfaction, and engagement.
Conclusions The use of a mixed method study design ensured accurate climate measurement and appropriate survey construction. FOCUS will advance fire service injury prevention efforts through use of a validated tool to understand, maintain, or change the culture that creates safety.
Significance Injury prevention has traditionally focused on passive methods to reduce injuries. However, we know that a portion of achieving lower injury rates must address human behaviour. Injury training has not introduced its practitioners to the role that climate assessment (aka ‘culture’) plays in injury risk. Integrating methods from occupational health psychology and organisational science can move the needle on injury outcomes.